Main Navigation

Natalie Winward

<<Return to main menu

Utilizing paleoecological reconstructions to inform fire-disturbance restoration and land management


I am currently a MS student working with Andrea Brunelle and Jesse Morris in the RED Lab (Records for Environment and Disturbance). I am focusing on paleoecology with an emphasis on restoration and land management implications. My research site is Deep Creek Lake, a high elevation site on the Colorado Plateau. I will be doing a pollen, charcoal, isotope and XRF analysis of my lake sediment core to get a clear picture of how Deep Creek Lake changed through time.


This study examines sediments from Deep Creek Lake (DCL) to reconstruct the past vegetation, climate and disturbance regimes for the area. This high-elevation lake (approximately 3,200 meters) will provide a local record of environmental change for most of the Holocene. The lake core from this site produces a 9,000-year-old record which will offer insights about the Holocene climatic optimum and how the ecosystem and its fire regime reacted to considerably increased temperatures in the past. This study will reconstruct a palaeoecological record of pollen, charcoal, stable light isotopes (15δN, 13δC) and XRF (x-ray fluorescence-elemental) data to quantify how fire disturbances impact vegetative and biogeochemical cycling patterns of the past to forecast the future. These findings will be used to guide the development of resilient land management practices that account for rising temperatures yet seek to minimize the damage and sustain the biodiversity of natural areas for generations to come.